God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Level 1

178 days, 15 hours and 59 minutes exactly is the South African lockdown old, when I write this paragraph – and we finally – since midnight – are on level 1. For many it is time to celebrate “almost freedom and normality” and for others the danger of a vicious circle starting with too much freedom while Corona is still threatening the lives of people.

Whatever it is – taking in the news from all over the world with all the horror news and predictions or the promises of a better future and new insights: this day might be a good day to reflect on the last months; the good and the bad.

And yes, there is certainly also some good to reflect on: the speed of life has indeed dropped dramatically and many people had time to not only spend it with family, but also to think about life, humanity and the role, everybody is playing in this big game called life within the universe.

Some are left with anxieties – being forced to confront oneself and the loved ones is not always only a pleasure; realising how vulnerable one is and that all perceived safety nets can collapse has brought one or the other to stand in front of own limitations. Being helpless against an invisible enemy has its challenges.

Covid-19 has also exposed all weakness of society; in South Africa old habits were visible within military and police and government often showed a real disconnect with society; authoritarian habits and the abuse of power for ideological purposes came to the forefront. South Africa was not alone, quite a lot of politicians worldwide used – or let’s better say: abused the situation for non-health related matters. And this in a time, where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are becoming a danger for truth, awareness of reality and democracy as we know it. The gap between poor and rich has been clearly visible and in many countries, poverty, hunger and desperation has increased.

A very complex situation indeed, but also a chance for human mankind to reflect on its status and interconnectivity with “Mother Earth”, as she is often called; and the meaning of life and its perspective related to cosmos and universe, to faith and values attached.

It will be seen whether human mankind learns out of it; it will be seen whether societies will strive to be a better sounding board between us humans, serving the purpose to foster peace, reconciliation and life to the fullest for as many people as possible.

Covid-19 has mirrored us as individuals, as members of society, as social, religious and political persons a lot of true colours; the question is whether we are able to act on it or just try to go back to the good old ways.

Filed under: Africa, General, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

Brexit

BrexitAnother hit onto the South African economy with consequences not good for the country, but I wonder why people are so excited about the outcome. The EU is indeed in a “cul-de-sac” on many levels – a union, based on economic desires while ignoring social questions and ruled by politicians often parked at the EU by national governments not wanting to entertain them further in national politics. Adding to it an expansion to conquer the rests of the dissolved UdSSR and growing at a rate which is unhealthy –  and looking at the administration more than a challenge; disaster has now struck with the Brexit.
Great Britain, anyhow always a nation wanting to have everything on an extra plate related to EU matters has decided by popular vote to exit. Xenophobia and narrow national interests, political lies and the anxiety of the ordinary people not understanding or even grasping the complexity of the global village in our days – all this was and is a toxic environment for national referendums.
It has to be seen whether this not means the end of Great Britain as such – with Scotland and Northern Ireland going separate ways on a long-term run.
But: The sun has come up again the next day and once again it has been demonstrated that life is flowing – also political life and social life. Borders, nations, national feelings are bound to a certain point in history and nothing remains for eternity.

It has to be seen whether politicians wake up and realize that only looking for re-election without any vision – and the courage to go for such a vision – means the end of politics as we have known it. Add to it the flood of social media and permanent news coverage which changes the landscape of decision-making and social development substantially. We are entering a new era and it seems that human mankind is not prepared or ready for the challenges of a modern and multi leveled connected global village.
For us South Africans it remains a sort of consolation that politics not only in our country is becoming more and more an affair of irrationality and madness. What is worrying is the fact that at the end the ordinary citizen pays the bill for all this – and the vulnerable, the powerless, the poor are those suffering more while most of those in charge creating the chaos have secured their benefits long-term.
NGOMore injustice is the underlying consequence of political incompetency as we see it in Europe, but also here in South Africa as in Africa on a growing scale. This makes the work of grass-root projects so much more important – NGO’s assisting those losing out in the realities of today. And if you look at movement like St Egidio you might learn that maybe it will be such initiatives from the base of society which can bring the development needed for more peace and prosperity for all living on this planet. But one has not to look that far – any small NGO – where ever they are – counter and mitigate the gaps, politics is leaving behind in their struggle for power and influence. They are much needed in our days.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My wish for you…

… a time of peace,
… a time of rest,
… a time of blessings,
… a time to reconnect with life
… a time to feel the unconditional love of God

Merry Christmas,
Compliments of the Seasons

Fr Stefan

Filed under: General, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Advent – Year of Mercy begins in Africa

Year of Mercy

The year of Mercy – beginning in Africa – holds also a message of hope for those thorn apart by stigma, sickness, hopelessness – it is a great entry for the day, we celebrate on the 1st of December: World Aids Day. A celebration that we are all called to turn stigma into blessings, like we are called to turn hate into love and war into peace. It is at the end all interconnected and it appeals not only to Christian but to all people of goodwill.

Sunday 29.11.2015 – Bangui CAR
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy has begun. It began more than a week ahead of the opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis opened the wood and glass door of Bangui Cathedral in CAR just a short while ago. Before opening it, he spontaneously explained the significance of his gesture.
“Today Bangui is the spiritual capital of the world,” the Pope said. “The Holy Year of Mercy begins earlier in this land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding and a lack of peace.”
“This land of suffering is a reflection of all countries around the world that have experienced the cross of war. Bangui is the spiritual capital of prayer for God’s mercy. Let us all ask for peace, mercy, reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Let us ask for peace and reconciliation for Bangui, for the Central African Republic and for all countries afflicted by war!”
The Pope said we need to “free ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people.” He reminded the faithful that one of the most important duties of a Christian is “the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony. Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy.”

“In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. … Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: ‘See how they love one another, how they truly love one another’.”

“God is stronger than all else…” … “This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!”

“To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace.”

 

Filed under: Africa, Catholic Church, General, HIV and AIDS, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sick and tired of violence

Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine and Israel – the news of violence, war and terror is a permanent feature on all news channels and I realize fatigue is setting in watching and zipping to all those channels with news seemingly to be for years the same.
Paris, Bamako – lock down in Brussels – and waiting for the next hit – around the world travel warning from the US and the discussions about sacrificing our freedoms fought for over long periods seems to head into a new direction of Orwell’s 1984 and even moreSouth Africa – #feesmustfall of the students means meanwhile arson, violence, destruction – almost hundred attempted murders per day in South Africa, from which are half successful. The taxi mafia continues to rule the streets and create havoc – service delivery protests can’t be without violence and damage anymore and whoever wants to take a drive on the national road N2 between Cape Town and Somerset West must be on the watch out – even police officers are not exempt falling victim of violence.
Coming back to the big world again – happy bombing from France – revenge for Paris, together with Russia and David Cameron can’t wait to extend his military reach in the Middle East – together with the continues and relentless extra-legal killings via drones – another permanent of this year’s news – especially when collateral damage means that unfortunately innocent people are killed too.
And as this would not be enough blood shed the state sponsored killings in the USA and Saudi-Arabia, but also not to forget in Indonesia and in other places seems to pick up again – another example that the capacity of governments and people to exercise respect for the sanctity of life degrades in the moment.

I must admit that I am in the moment sick and tired of all the violence on so many levels. Trying to get into the spirit of Advent as a Christian even worsens the situation as it becomes painfully clear how much we are away from the hope of Advent as the preparation of welcoming somebody in the world we see as the Prince of Peace and the messenger of unconditional love to all creation.
It seems that the new lonely caller in the wilderness we hear from in the bible changed his name from John the Baptist to Pope Francis amongst some other religious leaders . His travel this week to the war-thorn region of the Central African Republic with all the unknown and the danger would be a sign, that there might be other ways to answer violence and brutality than with weapons and violence.

But would that also be possible with ISIS or Daesh? Is there another way than throwing bombs?

I am convinced that bombings are not the answer, but that there are other strategies more promising to end this evil:
For example to acknowledge that there is a steady stream of unhappy Europeans following the call of ISIS and if we really want to root out such extremism we have to start in the suburbs of Paris, of Brussels, of Hamburg, of all the major cities in the USA. We have indeed to battle for the minds and the hearts of those feeling that they are not part of our society. Secondly let’s stop fulling the war in this region with selling weapons to “rebels” and other those, in the moment seemingly on the right side of history – in Afghanistan and Iraq history has thought us that the right side of history can quickly turn into the wrong one – ask the CIA which actually made Bin-Laden the person he became later on. Or Saddam Hussein, who was bolstered first to fight the revolution in Iran before falling out with the USA. Do we never learn out of mistakes?
Bombing, killing, extra-juridical killing by drones – it all creates an environment where people from ISIS will indeed flock together and new terrorists and suicide bombers are created on a daily base. The sad story of Israel and Palestine shows how the devils circle of violence never stops until somebody breaks it. And I am convinced to stop ISIS to gain more territory and cutting them off from the oil trade or trade of antiques will dry them out – cut them of the honor to connect them with  religion or Islam by getting the Umma to simply distance themselves – I am quite sure it will help to make this self-proclaimed caliphate a footnote of history in short time.

And let’s recognize and acknowledge that the wealth of Europe has its base in the exploitation of the African continent and the European colonies worldwide – and that they owe the people in Africa, in South America and where ever all the empires stretched for longer or shorter periods of time. Lots of country borders have been drawn on paper and without looking at situation. Lots of governments and dictators came into power because – at that time –   they either belonged to the anti-communist quarters or the other way around. We still haven’t worked it through – and we still are tempted to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. European governments judge not fairly but whatever suits best the Western World – they don’t have the focus on uplifting the people worldwide but what gives them more profit and fosters the lifestyle, Europe and North America wants to keep as long as possible. Let’s be honest: the conviction that we have to develop a new world order, a new way of dealing with each other is still in the infancy of the conscience of human civilization. We have conquered the technology but the rest lacks behind.

Advent – new beginning – may the feeling of being sick and tired of violence turn into a new approach of making the world a more peaceful place on all levels of life – a life to be called to live to the fullest.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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